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The Great Sardine Taste-off – the Sardine Saga continues (cans 31-39)

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The Great Sardine Taste-off – the Sardine Saga continues (cans 31-39)

r
rworange | | Jun 16, 2006 01:34 AM

Who knew there were so many kinds of canned sardines?

This was my first taste of fancy French sardines and humble Mexican sardines.

I didn’t like the French sardines that much. The only reason they ranked as high as they did was because all of the craft that went into making them. That didn’t translate to taste for the brand I tried.

The Mexican sardines come in big oval 15 ounce cans and are packed in tomato or hot sauce. The cans cost about $1 - $1.20 compared to the usual four ounce cans of sardines which can average from $1 - $3.

I opened the first one gingerly. I was almost afraid they might have heads attached and I’d have to deal with beady little eyes staring at me accusingly. No heads.

I went safe and opened the Bumble Bee can first. Good thing I did because otherwise it is unlikely I would have tried the Calmex or El Mexicano brands because these last two were so awful.

However, the Bumble Bee was the only brand of ANY canned sardines in tomato sauce that I’ve ever liked. These are excellent sardines and an excellent value. Oddly enough Bumble Bee regular 4 oz sardines are one of my least favorite brands. Bumble Bee Mexico – si, Bumble Bee USA – no.

As to Calmex and El Mexicano … I learned that sriracha sauce is an excellent match for sardines and can make, well, awful sardines edible.

The flabby El Mexicano sardines are last on the list of over 39 canned sardines sampled. If I ever do buy a worse tasting sardine, it will go directly in the garbage.

Pacific Star, a sardine from Thailand, was an unpleasantly bitter, sloppily-packed sardine. While it was in a traditional 4 oz sardine can, it didn’t have a pull tab and needed a can opener. Skip them. There are better sardines at the same price.

Cracovia sardines from Poland were tasty, but they were not whole, and looked at first like canned tuna.

This group wasn’t all bad. Roland Sardines took second place in the overall rankings And BELA-Olhao in plain olive oil ranked third out of the 39 cans sampled.

This also reinforced my theory that the best sardines are the sardines packed in olive oil or water. They are a better quality without sauces or spices to mask flaws.

BELA-Olhão sardines flavored with lemon or chile placed low in the rankings, while the sardines in plain olive oil were excellent.

Some sardines have a bitter taste to them. I think that happens when the tail is not cut off

At this point, I would say that sardine quality can pretty much be determined my country of origin with the following ranking.

Italy
Portugal
Spain
Morocco
Norway
France
Scotland
Canada
Poland
USA
The Philippines
Thailand
Mexico

Here are the details next 9 canned sardines, in order of preference:

Rankings

1. Roland Sardines in Olive Oil - Morocco - $2.95
2. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
3. Connetable Sardines entières à l’huile d’olive vierge extra - France - $2. 95 (on sale, usually $4.50)
4. Bumble Bee sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 29 (15 oz)
5. Cracovia - Poland - $2. 55
6. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
7. Pacific Star Lightly smoked sardines in vegetable oil - Thailand - $. 99
8. Calmex sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 19 (15 oz)
9. El Mexicano Sardinas en salsa de tomate con chile - Mexico - $1. 09 (15 oz)

Rankings of all 39 brands and link to previous post are at the end.

THE DETAILS

Size – my casual grading:
Extra large – Bumble Bee Mexican sardines in 15 oz oval cans
Large = length of can
Small = ½ length of can or smaller
Medium = anything in between


Brand: BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
Calories per can: 240
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt, natural smoke flavor
Taste: Three large beautiful sardines in excellent olive oil. Great not too tuna taste. Tails cut off. While I didn’t like the flavored varieties, the can in plain olive oil was good enough to rank number three out of 39 cans.

Brand: BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
Calories per can: 260
Ingredients: Sardines, extra virgin olive oil, natural lemon flavor, salt, natural smoke flavor
Taste: Three large sardines with tales cut off. I didn’t like the lemon flavoring which tasted like lemon oil rather than lemon juice. The sardines were salty and the lemon flavor just overwhelmed the sardine flavor. Like a mild tuna in taste and texture. Not too spiny. A slight flabbiness around the edges.


Brand: Bumble Bee sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 29 (15 oz)
Calories per can: 70 calories per serving, 7 servings per can
Ingredients: Sardines, water, tomato paste, starch, sugar, paprika
Taste: Seven extra large sardines. The sauce was a nice flavor, a little like Hunt’s tomato sauce … and that is a BIG improvement over any other sardines in tomato sauce. They held their shape very well. With the sauce, it was hard to determine any other appearance. The taste was fishy somewhere half way between Norwegian and Spanish sardines. Packed in olive oil, these would be very tasty and might match the Spanish sardines. Very meaty, little spine, a little dry and just a little bitter. Although it says 7 servings per can, it more realistically is two.

Brand: Connetable Sardines entières à l’huile d’olive vierge extra - France - $2. 95 (on sale, usually $4.50)
Calories per can: 360
Ingredients: Sardines (80%), extra virgin olive oil, salt
Taste: Stylish can in red, gold and black Five large sardines. The flesh was firm and not too spiny. However, There was a woody taste to them, like fish baked on planks. They had a bitter aftertaste and notes that were musty and gasoline-like. Although they are fried, I would never have guessed that without reading about it. The French age sardines, so maybe these will taste better after a few months.

Link for more info:

http://www.frenchselections.com/datab...

Brand: Calmex sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 19 (15 oz
)Calories per can: 60 calories per serving, 7 servings per can
Ingredients: Sardines, tomato sauce (tomatoes, iodized salt, spices)
Taste: There were about a dozen sardines in the can. This is the only can that had sardines of different sizes in. The cut ends were raggedy. They didn’t hold their shape well and fell apart easily. These were not pretty. Not too much spine. The sauce was watery and not too tasty. There were really about three servings rather than two.

Brand: Cracovia - Poland - $2. 55
Calories per can: 180
Ingredients: steamed herring fillets, vegetable oil, salt
Taste: I was surprised to open the can and see what looked and smelled like tuna. Double checking the can, it said sardine fillets. It was like the cans of salmon that have the skin and bones mixed in. Except no bones, just skin and sardine. Actually it was pretty good with a tuna taste. The only weird thing was the skin which had an odd flabby texture. It was a little salty, but the taste was actually quite good.

Brand: El Mexicano Sardinas en salsa de tomate con chile - Mexico - $1. 09 (15 oz)
Calories per can: 75 calories per serving, 8 servings per can
Ingredients: Sardines, tomato sauce, chile, salt
Taste: Seventeen large sardines with tails attached in a watery sauce that tasted of neither tomato nor chile. While the sardines had a pleasant taste there were texture problems where pieces had flabby spots. Yuck. Obviously did not keep their shape well and fell apart easily. While the can says seven servings, it is more like three … three miserable servings.

Brand: Pacific Star Lightly smoked sardines in vegetable oil - Thailand - $. 99
Calories per can: 140
Ingredients: Sardines, vegetable oil, water, citric acid
Taste: These were truly unattractive sardines with that bitter note that some sardines have. Four large messy sardines with the skin really nicked and the head and tail cuts jagged. I had to pry out two sardines that were stuck to the can. Also the sardines were flat like they had been pressed into the can to fit. And the can needed a can opener, no pull-tab. The meat itself wasn’t bad if it wasn’t for the bitterness. More along the tuna flavor. The vegetable oil was so weak I checked the box to see I they were packed in water or oil. There are much better sardines in this price range to choose from.

Brand: Roland Sardines in Olive Oil - Morocco - $2.95
Calories per can: 200
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt
Taste: Four large sardines with the tails cut off. Instantly good tasting. In fact, with my first bite I did an audible ‘mmmm’. Lovely balance with he tuna taste I prefer in sardines, but not overly so. Lovely olive oil that was buttery. At first I thought the spines were removed, but on very close inspection, the spines were very delicate and small. Excellent. It might beat out Angelo Parodi and in the future I’ll have to do a back to back tasting.


OVERALL RANKINGS

1. Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi all’olio di olivo – Portugal/Italy - $1.99
2. Roland Sardines in Olive Oil - Morocco - $2.95
3. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
4. Matiz Gallego sardines in olive oil - Spain - $2. 99
5. Idamar Portuguese Sardines in olive oil - Portugal - $2. 25
6. Gonsalves Sardines in olive oil – Portugal - $1.99
7. Da Morgada Sardines in Pure Olive Oil - Portugal - $3. 99
8. Albo Sardines in Olive oil – Spain - $4.99
9. King Oscar Sardines Mediterranean style – Norway, packed in Poland - $2.99
10. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in soybean oil – Morocco - $2.49
11. King Oscar Extra Small Sardines in fish oil 2 layers – Norway - $2.99
12. Connetable Sardines entières à l’huile d’olive vierge extra - France - $2. 95 (on sale, usually $4.50)
13. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in cayenne pepper-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
14. Crown Prince One Layer Sardines in soy bean oil no Salt - Scotland - $1. 85
15. Beach Cliff Sardines in soybean oil – USA / Canada - $.69
16. Brunswick Sardines in Spring Water No Salt Added – Canada - $1.19
17. Madrigal spiced sardines in vegetable oil – Morocco - $1.59
18. Brunswick Sardines in Olive Oil – Canada - $1.19
19. King Oscar Extra Small Brisling Sardines in purest virgin olive oil – Norway - $2.99
20. King Oscar tiny tots Sardines in olive oil two layers – Norway - $2.99
21. Bumble Bee sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 29 (15 oz)
22. Cracovia - Poland - $2. 55
23. Palacio Real Small Sardines in Olive oil (slightly smoked) – Spain - $2.99
24. BUMBLE BEE Sardines in Water – Poland - $.89
25. King Oscar Sardines in pure spring water – Norway - $2.99
26. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
27. Mega Sardines in tomato sauce with chili – The Philippines - $.79
28. Brunswick Sardines in Mustard Sauce – Canada - $1.19
29. Bumble Bee Sardines in Mustard – Poland - $.89
30. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $2.49
31. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in mustard sauce – Morocco - $2.49
32. King Oscar Sardines in tomato – Norway - $2.99
33. Brunswick Sardines in Mustard and Dill Sauce – Canada - $1.19
34. King Oscar Skinless & boneless Sardines in olive oil – Morocco - $2.99
35. Gourmet Award lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $1.89
36. Pacific Star Lightly smoked sardines in vegetable oil - Thailand - $. 99
37. Calmex sardines in tomato sauce - Mexico - $1. 19 (15 oz)
38. Brunswick Sardines in tomato & basil Sauce – Canada - $1.19
39. El Mexicano Sardinas en salsa de tomate con chile - Mexico - $1. 09 (15 oz)

THE NEW BRANDS SAMPLED

Brand: Calmex
Manufacturer: Ocean Garden Products, Inc.

Brand: Connetable
Manufacturer: Connetable
http://www.connetable.com/nos_produit...

Brand: Cracovia
Manufacturer: Cracovia Brands, Inc.
http://www.cracovia.com/home.htm

Brand: El Mexicano
Manufacturer: Marquez

Brand: Pacific Star
Manufacturer: Star International

Brand: Roland
Manufacturer: American Roland Food Corp
http://www.rolandfood.com/index.cfm

PREVIOUS BRANDS SAMPLED


Brand: Albo Sardines
Manufacturer: Albo

Brand: Angelo Parodi
Manufacturer: Icat Food S.p.A
http://www.icatfood.it/parodi/prodott...

Brand: Beach Cliff
Manufacturer: Bumble Bee Crop
http://www.beachcliff.info

Brand: BELA-Olhão
Manufacturer: Blue Galleon, Inc.
http://www.mybela.com/

Brand: Brunswick
Manufacturer: Bumble Bee Seafoods
http://www.bumblebee.com

Brand: Bumble Bee
Manufacturer: Bumble Bee Seafoods
http://www.bumblebee.com

Brand: Crown Prince
Manufacturer: Crown Prince, Inc
http://www.crownprince.com/index.html

Brand: Da Morgada
Manufacturer: Tradifoods
www.tradifoods.pt

Brand: Gonsalves
Manufacturer: The Henry Gonsalves Co

Brand: Gourmet Award
Manufacturer: Gourmet Award Foods

Brand: Idamar
Manufacturer: Idama

Brand: King Oscar
Manufacturer: Bumble Bee Seafoods
http://www.kingoscar.no/KingOscar/Mai...

Brand: Madrigal
Manufacturer: Unimer

Brand: Matiz Gallego
Manufacturer: Matiz Gallego
http://www.psimports.net/
http://www.matizespana.com/

Brand: Mega Sardines
Manufacturer: Mega Fishing corp.
http://www.megasardines.com

Brand: Palacio Real Small Sardines in Olive oil (slightly smoked
)Manufacturer: Palacio Real

Brand: Yankee clipper
Manufacturer: American Natural & Specialty Brands
http://www.treeoflife.com/Products.as...

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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